ICTS are changing the lives of millions of ACP farmers, allowing them to transfer money, call input dealers to order supplies and negotiate prices with traders, all without having to leave their farm. Whilst access to smartphones, network signal and internet in some rural areas may still be limited, the use of basic feature phones is widespread and the accessibility of mobile phone services is rapidly improving.
Despite this, much of the potential that ICTs hold for agricultural development remains unrealised, either because apps and information do not exist, or have not been sufficiently refined for intended users, or because potential users do not know about the technology or how to use it. Designed to help accelerate adoption, uptake and scaling up of ICTs for agriculture by and for the benefit of rural communities, CTA's 2014-15 ICT4Ag initiative sought to address these issues. The initiative consisted of two components: building viable delivery models for ICT4Ag – to support five organisations in Africa and the Caribbean to develop, refine, pilot and disseminate apps – and Apps4Ag, which supported two African organisations to expand their client base for pre-existing apps.
Beyond the hype: Mobile phones and the web to improve agricultural value chains summarises the lessons learned from all seven projects, offering key recommendations for future ICT4Ag projects, such as CTA's Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag Enabled Information Services (MUIIS) project. The brief highlights the importance of understanding users' needs by interacting with potential clients before designing an app and then pilot-testing it to fine tune the services provided.
Details of the final outputs of the seven projects are provided in separate briefs. Where, exactly, is your farm? Syecomp's eFARMS farm-mapping service in Ghana describes Ghanian private-sector company Syecomp's efforts to scale-out its mapping services using geospatial technology to smallholder farmers across Ghana. Water next Tuesday: eLEAF's irrigation-advice service in the Gezira Scheme in Sudan explains the progress of Netherlands-based technology company eLEAF in scaling up its satellite-based information services in South Sudan to provide farmers with targeted extension services.
The work of RONGEAD – a French international network system – to collect cashew market prices from across Ivory Coast and send the information to cashew growers via text, is detailed in Cashew on your phone: N'kalô: RONGEAD's market-advice app in West Africa. Whilst the impact of a mobile application targeting small-scale fisheries in the Caribbean, mFisheries, is summarised in An app for fishers: The University of the West Indies' multifunctional mFisheries app. The key lessons and achievements of harnessing digital media to improve monitoring and implementation of agricultural policies, Yam Pukri – a NGO based in Burkina Faso –are outlined in Buy Burkinabè! Yam Pukri's Agripol advocacy platform in Burkina Faso.
Finally, Learning to pay by phone: MOBIS, Ensibuuko's mobile-money app in Uganda and Advice on beans: Farmerline's Mergdata farm-advice service in Ghana ICTs describe the impact of Ensibuuko, provider of the mobile banking app MOBIS and Farmerline, which offers farmers market and weather information and advice via their mobile phones.